Friday, July 6, 2007

AT - Salzburg

My pension, Haus Wartenberg, was surprisingly easy to find and was staffed by unbelievably cute female students – particularly a Nepalese student studying hotel & restaurant management. The only catch was: I could never find anybody! I was actually plotting what I would do if I was ready to check out and couldn’t find anybody. Considering I was “checked in” by the bartender (in that he gave me the key and didn’t do any of the paperwork), there was not really any record of me being there other than a locked room 4. Fortunately for them and for my own ethical issues, the owner was there when I was ready to check out a couple days later.

One of my first observations as I traveled through Salzburg was the abundance of Americans. I couldn’t help but wonder where all of the Austrians were at. There are many students studying art here, be it painting and the like, music, or dance. There are plenty of street musicians and also some dancers here and there performing performance art. Of course, I guess that’s what you do with performance art… perform it.

On a map or even in Google Earth, the city looks very large; but it is actually quite compact and very walkable – even though the bus lines were very efficient. Every block has a distinct look and you do not even realise how much you are actually walking.

The interior of the Festung Hohensalzburg is not too spectacular beyond most other palaces and fortresses. It has largely been stripped of its antiquity, luxury, and military implements and is now a museum. Its exterior, however, is spectacular. It is no wonder the fortress was never taken: even today it would still command a strategic location. The remainder of the Festungberg hill upon which the fortress is located makes for a lovely walk with some excellent views of the city; and within the hill is a pair of massive parking structures – a really ingenious location, if you think about it.

Be warned about walking the northern half of the hill at night: I didn’t see anyone else, so I suppose it was safe, but lighting was rare at best. There was one exception when I arrived at an art piece consisting of seemingly randomly-scattered numbers on a metal low-density lattice (I know, that made no sense whatsoever). Basically, if you’re walking around at night and happen upon it, you’ll know what I mean when I say it is a really freaky thing to approach: it’s like walking up to an extraterrestrial spacecraft or something… I was definitely expecting aliens to walk up and probe me.

The gardens of the Schloss Mirabell are more in line with what I anticipated in Wien: plenty of groomed flower gardens amidst greenery and fountains. Still not particular forte, but certainly enjoyable. I do not particularly care for palaces and fortresses which have lost their interior to museums or reconstruction, but fortunately Schloss Mirabell has generally been used for cultural activities ever since it became a public-use facility. That means that it has still retained a generous portion of its luxurious interior, making the two concerts I attended there even better.

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